AT&T rep details planned Epworth cell antenna

Feb 28 2014

Cellphone antennas inside a new, taller Epworth Methodist Church steeple could be completed and operational in as little as six months, according to the contractor who’s representing AT&T on the deal.

But the telephone giant is taking the process more slowly now that some community members have expressed concern about the facility, said Carolyn Gould, project manager for RETEL Services, a company that navigates siting and regulatory issues for cell antennas.

The larger image is a rendition of the Epworth steeple (with antennas inside) as it might look when complete. Current view is in the upper left corner. Image provided by RETEL Services. Gould agreed to appear with AT&T officials at a CPNO monthly  meeting to answer questions and receive input, but the date for that appearance hasn't yet been set.

“If it can work out, it can be beautiful,” she said of the project. She argued that the Epworth antennas would improve cell coverage within Candler Park, while at the same time relying on relatively low power and also being placed inside a tower that would be architecturally consistent with the existing church. “If you’re moving into a home and you have five bars of coverage, and you can’t see an  antenna nearby ... I cannot imagine that not being a benefit.”

The new steeple would rise approximately 100 feet from street level. It would house antennas for AT&T and possibly one or two other providers inside a special building material that allows the radiofrequency, or RF, waves to be transmitted. Ground-level equipment, which doesn't emit radio waves, would be housed behind a new brick wall adjacent to the rear of the church building.

Before construction starts, the project must complete a Federal Communications Commission registration process, which already has begun. That process includes a review by the state Historic Preservation Division to ascertain the impact on historic structures or districts.

The extended tower also would require a Special Administrative Permit for zoning through the City of Atlanta. The application for that permit requires an opportunity for Neighborhood Planning Unit review and comment, which appears to be the most likely route for public input from Candler Park residents.

From there, the project would need a building permit to proceed, and construction could be completed in as little as two months, Gould said.

“We’re almost ready to submit for zoning,” Gould said, “but I think we’re putting that on hold right now [because AT&T officials] want to solicit input.”

Gould said the lease negotiated between the Epworth board and RETEL includes an option allowing AT&T to back out of the project.

Meanwhile, some Candler Park residents — including parents at Epworth’s preschool — expressed anger Wednesday and Thursday that they hadn’t been consulted on the church’s plans earlier. They were particularly upset because reports of the lease broke just as parents were re-enrolling their children for pre-school. Epworth Dayschool Director Amy Zaremba did offer Thursday, however, to refund any enrollment fees to parents who were pulling their children out because of the antenna project.

At the heart of the parents' concerns are the positions of some researchers and activists that radiofrequency waves from cell towers pose health risks. While mainstream science and regulatory organizations do warn of possible cancer risks from RF waves emitted by mobile phones, they regularly note that even people who live near cellphone antenna are exposed to tiny fraction of waves compared to those emitted by normal usage of the phones themselves.

The FCC, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for the Research on Cancer, and other mainstream groups have not classified cell antennas as a cancer or health risk.

This post has been edited slightly since it was first published.


We moved to Candler Park just last August and chose our house because of the proximity to the Church Preschool, Park, and Mary Lin elementary. It seemed like a family friendly neighborhood full of kids.

I am beyond disappointed that AT&T would target a church that houses a Preschool. And saddened that a Church would agree.

From what I understand, those who live within a 1/4 to 1/2 mile are at greatest risk of having potential health issues (this is based on field correlation studies – please let me know if you would like the link to them). Epworth Preschool, Mary Lin Elementary, Candler Park Playground, and many of our homes will be within this radius (and note there are still risks outside of this radius).

There is a ton of information available on the risks/safety of cell phone towers/antennas. For every study out there that shows they are safe, you can find a study that says they pose a health risk. Across the board, you will often find the studies reference data gaps or inconclusive results.

Cell phones (and cell phone towers) are still a relatively new technology. From what I have read, the long term health effects of living in close proximity can take up to 20 years to manifest themselves. This makes replicating the impacts in a laboratory study difficult, and also provides for limited field studies to date.

Given that the broad body of scientific evidence is still inconclusive, and that we just don't know enough about the long term impacts, I don't feel that we can definitively say that cell phone towers/antennae are safe, especially over the long term.

The AT&T Rep states that the tower will increase coverage. However, If you look at the AT&T coverage map, you will see that our community currently has adequate coverage.

In addition, if you look at the map of current cell phone towers, you will see that there are already several in close proximity to our community.

As an Epworth Parent, and Candler Park resident/homeowner who lives less than 200 yards from the Church, I am very concerned about this and would love to have it resolved so that everyone in the community wins. Not just AT&T.

Tania Thiele